A strong password is an important means of protecting your privacy on the Internet. Two-factor authentication (2FA) takes data security a step further still. Because with 2FA, criminals will be unable to access your information, even if they have your password.
The process of signing into a service using your username and password involves just one security factor. Two-factor authentication, however, uses an additional second medium to prevent unauthorized access to your account. This medium, referred to by security experts as a token, is a separate technical device required in order to sign in. Currently, this device will tend to be a smartphone.
The two-factor authentication concept significantly increases account security. After all, even if an unauthorized person has your password, they will be unable to log in unless they also have the second security medium.
How two-factor authentication works
To sign in using two factors, you begin by signing in as usual. You then have to perform a second step, which is what provides the added security.
- So, you begin by entering your username and password.
- The service then sends you an access code, either by SMS or by another medium, which you must also enter. Only once you have completed this second step will you be able to log in.
Some service providers provide the code via a special smartphone app as opposed to an SMS. Such apps work by generating new number sequences at regular intervals. The most current number sequence is the one required to log in.
How to set up two-factor authentication
Setting up two-factor authentication on Facebook
You can use two-factor authentication to increase the security of your Facebook account.
- To do so, sign in and then click on “Settings”, which you can find by clicking on the small triangle in the top-right corner of the screen.
- In the left-hand column on the page that then appears, click on “Security and login”.
- On the next page, click on “Use two-factor authentication”.
- Facebook will then provide you with a brief explanation of the concept, before asking you to decide on whether to use an SMS or an app-based access method.
If you want to use the app-based method, simply scan the QR code displayed in order to initiate the set-up procedure in the app.
The page on 2FA also provides a link to the recovery code. You will only need this code if ever you cannot access your smartphone.
Securing your Google account using two-factor authentication
- Go to the website https://myaccount.google.com/security and sign in using your Google user data.
- Please then select the option “2-Step Verification”.
- Start the set-up process and follow the instructions on the screen.
- You can activate and deactivate 2-Step Verification in the same section of the website. Google naturally recommends that its own app and the Android operating system be used for 2-Step Verification. But set-up via the QR code will also work with other apps, such as the Microsoft program. To use this option, simply scan the QR code in the app concerned.
Setting up two-factor authentication for your Dropbox account
- Go to www.dropbox.com/account#security.
- Here, activate “Two-step verification” and click on “First steps”.
- You will then be asked to enter your password again.
- Next, you will be asked to choose between having the additional code sent by SMS or via a mobile app.
If you opt for the SMS method, you will be sent a text message with a one-time code every time you sign into Dropbox.
If you opt to use a mobile app (see links), you will need to enter the code most recently displayed by the app in order to sign in. If you select this option, the website will display a QR code, which you will need to scan in the respective app in order to initiate the set-up process.
Once set-up is completed, Dropbox will send you a 16-digit code. This code will enable you to sign in, should your smartphone ever be lost or stolen. You must therefore keep this code somewhere safe – in a password manager, for example.
Securing your Microsoft account using two-factor authentication
Most Microsoft services now offer the option of signing in using 2FA.
- To use this option, sign into account.live.com and click on “Account settings”. Alternatively, access the page at https://account.live.com/summarypage.aspx.
- Go to “Security basics”, then click on “More security options.” Under “Two-step verification”, choose “Set up two-step verification”
- At this point, the website may require you to enter your email address. Enter your address as confirmation and wait until you receive an email containing a security code, which you must subsequently enter in a prompt field. Microsoft will then display the current security settings.
- Click on “Set up two-step verification”.
- Here, you can select between using an app and using a telephone number. If you select the telephone number, you will receive either a text message or a telephone call, depending on your preference. In the case of the latter, a computer voice will read out the pertinent code.
If you select the app as the medium, Microsoft will display a QR code, which you must then scan in the app. After doing so, you will receive a security code that you will need to use should you no longer be able to access your smartphone. You should therefore store this code somewhere safe.
Using two-factor authentication with Apple
If you want to secure your Apple iCloud using two factors, you can perform the corresponding set-up using either iOS or macOS.
If you use iOS, please proceed as follows
1. Go to “Settings”, “[your name]”, and “Password & Security”. If you use an earlier version, go to “Settings”, then to “iCloud“.
2. Tap on “Two-Factor Authentication”.
3. Tap on “Continue”.
4. Next, enter your trusted phone number, which is the number to which you want the confirmation code to be sent.
If you use macOS, please set up the system as follows
1. Go to “Apple” (the apple symbol) and select “System Preferences”. Click on “iCloud”, then on “Account Details”.
2. Here, click on “Security”, then on “Turn On Two-Factor Authentication”.
Why you need app passwords
If the account protected by two-factor authentication is to be accessed using other apps or other devices that do not support 2FA, then you will need an app password. The steps for authorizing an app are explained on the respective providers’ 2FA-specific webpages.
The login procedure is then as follows
- Under the respective provider’s (Microsoft, Google, etc.) security options section, you create a new app password.
- You then sign in to the respective app or device by entering first your username, then the app password that has been generated.